Background: Although the effects of P deficiency on tea (Camellia sinensis (L.) O. Kuntze) growth, P uptake and utilization as well as leaf gas exchange and Chl a fluorescence have been investigated, very little is known about the effects of P deficiency on photosynthetic electron transport, photosynthetic enzymes and carbohydrates of tea leaves. In this study, own-rooted 10-month-old tea trees were supplied three times weekly for 17 weeks with 500 mL of nutrient solution at a P concentration of 0, 40, 80, 160, 400 or 1000 microM. This objective of this study was to determine how P deficiency affects CO2 assimilation, Rubisco, carbohydrates and photosynthetic electron transport in tea leaves to understand the mechanism by which P deficiency leads to a decrease in CO2 assimilation.
Results: Both root and shoot dry weight increased as P supply increased from 0 to 160 microM, then remained unchanged. P-deficient leaves from 0 to 80 muM P-treated trees showed decreased CO2 assimilation and stomatal conductance, but increased intercellular CO2 concentration. Both initial and total Rubisco activity, contents of Chl and total soluble protein in P-deficient leaves decreased to a lesser extent than CO2 assimilation. Contents of sucrose and starch were decreased in P-deficient leaves, whereas contents of glucose and fructose did not change significantly except for a significant increase in the lowest P leaves. OJIP transients from P-deficient leaves displayed a rise at the O-step and a depression at the P-step, accompanied by two new steps at about 150 mus (L-step) and at about 300 mus (K-step). RC/CSo, TRo/ABS (or Fv/Fm), ETo/ABS, REo/ABS, maximum amplitude of IP phase, PIabs and PItot, abs were decreased in P-deficient leaves, while VJ, VI and dissipated energy were increased.
Conclusion: P deficiency decreased photosynthetic electron transport capacity by impairing the whole electron transport chain from the PSII donor side up to the PSI, thus decreasing ATP content which limits RuBP regeneration, and hence, the rate of CO2 assimilation. Energy dissipation is enhanced to protect P-deficient leaves from photo-oxidative damage in high light.